Nike’s recent sponsorship of Colin Kaepernick and his campaign of kneeling during the national anthem has thrust the Nike brand back into the spotlight. The is not an unfamiliar position for Nike, and one that it has successfully occupied in the past.
As a brand that skews young and urban, the calculus is clear: Nike can galvanize support for Kaepernick’s cause and burnish its own brand among these key constituencies, while limiting negative brand impact among older audiences that are less important to its business. In other words, Nike is playing to its key customers.
Nike and Trump
As part of playing to that base, Nike’s calculated decision also suggests that it is comfortable potentially antagonizing a generally polarizing President, as President Trump has been a vocal critic of Kaepernick throughout the kneeling debate.
So far, Trump’s Tweets have driven a fairly tepid 58K retweets between them, compared to 652K retweets for the two major Kaepernick Tweets.
Just like the NFL, whose ratings have gone WAY DOWN, Nike is getting absolutely killed with anger and boycotts. I wonder if they had any idea that it would be this way? As far as the NFL is concerned, I just find it hard to watch, and always will, until they stand for the FLAG!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 5, 2018
What was Nike thinking?
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 7, 2018
With Nike taking a play from President Trump’s playbook, perhaps President Trump sensed that giving the Tweet more publicity would only fuel the campaign’s reach, and has thus refrained from tweeting about the campaign since September 7th.
For Kaepernick and Nike, this has been a watershed campaign, driving massive Twitter mentions that are far eclipsing previous peaks:
Twitter Mentions: Nike vs. Kaepernick
View Interactive Chart: http://snt.io/oKDKeowwV
Nike is a shrewd marketer and we presume that they extensively focus-grouped the campaign’s impact before going live. However, there is no telling what happens once the campaign is in the wild.
Sentiment Analysis of Nike Tweets
We used Sentieo’s proprietary sentiment analysis engine on Nike Tweets and news to analyze sentiment immediately before and after Kaepernick’s initial Tweets, testing our hypothesis that the campaign would be a net positive for Nike’s brand and advertising reach.
The initial Tweet came out on September 3rd with a simple image and message:
The Tweet was followed by a two minute Nike video ad released on September 5th:
— Colin Kaepernick (@Kaepernick7) September 5, 2018
We scored the sentiment of a sample of Tweets in the days since the start of the campaign, and found some interesting results:
Before the initial Tweet, Tweets were scarce and sentiment was fairly broadly distributed. Tweet volume spiked and sentiment turned markedly negative in the hours after the initial Kaepernick Tweet, as a multitude of Twitter accounts called the action unpatriotic and called for boycotts on Nike products.
However, two days later, when the ad was released on Thursday Night Football, we saw the Nike marketing machine kick into high gear. It drove a second spike in tweets and increasingly positive sentiment as the audience digested the powerful ad and its message of excellence, commitment, and sacrifice — classic Nike marketing staples.
Positive and Negative Twitter Hashtags
When we surveyed the most popular daily hashtags within Nike Tweets, we found a similar story. Blue hashtags below indicate positive sentiment (led by #JustDoIt most days), while the red hashtags indicate negative sentiment (#BoycottNike and #MAGA – Make America Great Again).
Red hashtags were popular in the early days of the campaign, but were overwhelmed by the blue hashtags after September 5th.
Positive and Negative Sentiment Hashtags
Examining Purchase Intent on Twitter
To gauge the impact on consumer purchasing decisions, we also analyzed trends for purchase intent on Twitter, e.g. “I want a pair of,” “Mom bought me some,” etc.
The chart below shows that Nike had an all-time high of purchase intent tweets after 9/3, and positive purchase intent Tweets have outnumbered negative purchase intent Tweets 5:1.
Nike: Postitive vs. Negative Purchase Intent
View Interactive Chart: http://snt.io/gfDKgjsYZ
When including the much broader boycott campaigns, we see more negative intent. However, we believe that purchase intent — positive or negative — is a much more powerful indicator than someone merely retweeting a boycott hashtag.
Nike Positive vs. Negative Purchase Intent, with “boycott” Twitter mentions
View Interactive Chart: http://snt.io/AhDKgzZQh
Collectively, this signals to us that the campaign is working from a marketing perspective. We also think the ROI on spend from this will be very high, given the increased reach through major digital channels.
Kaepernick’s Tweet from 9/3 was liked 900k times and retweeted 366k times. The video ad on 9/5 was viewed 24.9M times on Twitter and over 15M times on YouTube.
There is also a beneficial secondary effect from other celebrity influencers. For example, Lebron James’ Instagram post has generated 1.4M likes and 16.1K comments.
We also analyzed Nike news articles, and now believe that the media will portray Nike in an increasingly positive light, further contributing to the virality of the campaign. Sentiment turned quite negative after the initial tweet, but started a gradual recovery after Nike released the video ad.
While some investors are worried about headline risk with Nike’s campaign, we find that the campaign was well thought out, and is likely to increase its mindshare across its core demographic. Influencers and the news media have expanded the reach of Nike’s campaign, and general consumer purchase intent has increased as a result.